Naturopathic Medicine in Fertility
Whether you are just starting to try to get pregnant, struggling with getting pregnant or suffering from recurrent miscarriages, a fertility naturopathic doctor can help you along your fertility journey. Naturopathic doctors are trained healthcare professionals with different areas of interest. I personally am passionate about helping women in this particular stage of life both for personal reasons and because there is SO MUCH we can do to make this process more effective and comfortable for couples!
An Individualized Approach to Fertility
Naturopathic medicine focuses on looking at each patient individually. Rather than putting each patient through a set panel of blood tests which result in a diagnosis and treatment- I like to consider the individual I have in front of me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that naturopathic medicine should be the sole healthcare avenue for couples trying to conceive (I always suggest that everyone needs both approaches). Rather, a traditional fertility workup is just incomplete on its own.
A classic fertility workup most often misses out on necessary testing (e.g. iron levels) and when they do test everything, I often see that interpretation of the results are based on average “normal” rather than being in the optimal ranges, and of course individualized. A “normal value” is a number which is obtained through statistical analysis for the majority of the population. Normal does not equal optimal. If someone falls into the normal range for a certain test- what it actually means is that statistically their values should mean they are not sick. Again, “not sick” does not mean that you are healthy and optimal. There are a few issues with this approach. To start, it doesn’t include 100% of the population; there will always be outliers who fall into the range yet they still have symptoms or an underlying disease. A situation I frequently see in the case of fertility assessments is that all test results come back normal yet the couple is still unable to get pregnant, so they are diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’. Secondly, these tests are used to find something wrong. The absence of something wrong (i.e. when all tests come back normal) does not mean that the body is functioning optimally. For fertility, it just means that there are no common or obvious conditions why the couple can’t conceive.
The search shouldn’t just end there, but sadly for many couples it does. Either they go on to just keep trying, or they move on to the path of doing IVF.
When a couple is trying to get pregnant, this is in fact possibly one of the most important times for our bodies to be working at their best. Therefore, we want our lab values to be optimal rather than just ‘normal.’ Optimal levels of hormones and nutrients contribute to a peak level of fertility. The naturopathic approach is to aim for optimal, also taking into consideration what is optimal for you as an individual, not simply comparing you to the rest of the population.
A Holistic Approach to Fertility
Another aspect of the conventional approach that is incomplete is the focus on one system. A fertility workup obviously needs to focus on the reproductive system, however, in my experience, the traditional workup is often hyper focused on JUST this one system. This way of thinking fails to account for the fact that all body systems interact with one another. One can’t just isolate the uterus and ovaries and evaluate fertility based on these reproductive organs alone. We have to consider the person as a whole, and ensure all other systems in the body are functioning optimally in order to produce balanced hormones, create a thick uterine lining for implantation, and have high-quality eggs and sperm.
While couples struggling with infertility see several valuable specialists (fertility clinics doctors, endocrinologists, pharmacists, gynecologists etc.), naturopathic doctors are trained to treat the whole person. Rather than just looking at the reproductive system of a woman who is struggling to get pregnant, or the sperm of her partner, an ND looks at the health of the whole body of both partners. This includes each person’s diet, exercise habits, thyroid health, gut health, stress levels, sleep patterns, environmental factors and more. It’s the subtle interactions between these systems that creates the ultimate balance of your hormones and the environment in your body in which your eggs and sperm are growing. By taking a holistic approach, no system is missed and the body begins to work in harmony rather than being segregated into sections.
Don’t forget, that Naturopathic Doctors are specially trained in the therapeutic and safe use of natural health products such as herbs and vitamins, as well as clinical nutrition and lifestyle support. Taking advice the advice of what supplements to take (or not take) or how to eat for fertility from a conventional fertility doctor is like asking your pet’s veterinarian for your own medical advice. It’s just not what they’re trained in! Use your health care team for what they do best. I absolutely encourage you to seek help from a fertility doctor, but when it comes to optimizing health through nutrition and supplements, a Naturopathic Doctor is the expert on that.
Tender Love and Care
As you may know already, the journey to pregnancy can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Part of the care from a fertility naturopathic doctor focuses on providing patients with continued psychological support. When patients have this support, they don’t just tolerate the challenging process more, it actually improves the success rate! In a study which looked at couples with recurrent miscarriages and no abnormal findings, those who were given proper psychological support and counselling had a success rate of 80% vs. 33% in those who were not given specific emotional care during the pregnancy.1
Navigating the world of fertility is often complex and overwhelming. For optimal care you must have diagnostics and treatments aimed at helping you. At Awaken Life, I take a whole body, individualized approach in order to find out what the best course of action is for you. If you are seeking complimentary support to your current conventional workup I would love to help support you along your journey!
Do you need support to improve your chances of conceiving?
Fertility challenges are often complex and can have many areas where there is room for improvement. I know that it can be overwhelming to navigate all of the information around optimizing fertility. This is because every individual is different. Therefore, for the best results you must optimize your health according to your own specific case. At Awaken Life, I believe in an individualized approach to fertility. If you are seeking support, are feeling overwhelmed or confused about how to optimize your chances, I would love to help support you along your journey.
With love and in health,
Dr. Priya Prakash, ND
- Stray-Pedersen B, Stray-Pedersen S. Etiologic factors and subsequent reproductive performance in 195 couples with a prior history of habitual abortion. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 1984 Jan 15;148(2):140-6.
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